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Downtime . . . (6)

Well, when I began this around the turn of the year, I knew nothing about the Toolset, couldn't get the hang of the 6 second turns or the game in general but had the kind of feeling that if I had been sitting in a class and been offered the chance to turn my ideas into a 3D landscape with my story and characters and then have others play my game I'd probably have paid a whole lot more attention to Computing then I did ( well, if they'd had Computing in my days at schools, which they didn't )  . . .  but you get the gist. 

Things have now moved on apace and I thought it would be good to clarify my thinking on where we are before meeting Matthew for our planning meeting next week. He, being PT Computing of a large Secondary school is frazzled with all the clarity of thought of a walking zombie ( he won't mind me saying that  . . .I don't think/hope ). The time after national exams start and senior pupils depart for exam leave means for school management a busy time of ordering, finishing mountains of exam paperwork, sorting classes and timetables and so on. The sun may have his hat on but if you're a school Principal Teacher you've probably not noticed. And so it is with Matthew so we have already postponed our planning meeting once and we're gonna meet in the next two weeks for it, someplace well away from the department.  

I said I'd have a think about how things have gone and come along with a variety of options which he can select from to save him trying to think about it when he clearly doesn't have quality time at the moment and, for me, we're probably as far along the road as I could have hoped for. 

1. Matthew is sold on the value of the game for kids in his dept in terms of interest levels, meeting requirements of national exam awards, learning relevant games' creation skills, customising games etc.  He sees value in a number of areas, not just the games Design class.

2. I now know a lot more about the Toolset, a little more about scripting ( sorry Tarot and Barbarian ), and have a much better idea of the terrific resources here which people share very generously.  Matthew and I are currently working our way through a tutorial from Barbarian on using Blender ( which is terrific ! ) on the basis that if I can manage it there will be few people on planet earth who can't. That will fulfil an essential requirement of our Games Design class course as it's manadatory. In between times I have brought Matthew up to date with sokme tutition on the Toolset showing him different aspects and generally allowing him to work through the shortened tutorial I've put together for an intro to the Games Design class. 

3. We haven't had a chance to try this tutorial with the class due to time constraints but I did walk the class through creating the short module it covers and they managed it quite easily and, while not falling off their seats in amazement at the game, did grow into it even over two weeks and were clear that this was something they would have liked to find out more about.

It reminded me of something I'd forgotten since retiring from school ; kids have NO fear ! While I would have been happy with our Rural tileset with its road, stream, encounter, chest or two and victory at the end,  as I walked around they had just zipped past me. One had created a whole village, another was in the properties of one of the monsters, weakening it in the stats while another was playing aropund with a dragon. I casually remarked to him that maybe a dragon as a foe would be a little strong for his level 1 PC and he replied that no, he wasn't fighting it. He had changed its faction to make it friendly but was now struggling to get it to accompany him as his companion. I made a mental note never to underestimate kids again and sat down that night to look out a Henchman tutorial.   (I drew heavily on this one by Wydraz -  but as they say I'm sure others are available ). 

4. We have far too much material ( generally a good thing) and could end up drowning the kids so we need to keep it simple to start with and leave it to their enthusiasm to ask questions and want more. I'm coming round to a thought we had about a general introduction for the Toolset to get them building, a guided tutorial (Barbarian's) for creating 3D objects and importing into the game ( with Tarot's simpler floor decals one for anyone struggling) and then getting onto the ideas and building phase. For this, I'm thinking about having an extra short tutorials "menu" available from which every pupil will select one and become the "expert" on that, able afterwards to offer help to the rest of the class in return for their expert knowledge on their aspect.  I'd need about six to make that viable and at the moment I've got them on 


Making a character sit

Hidden / trap doors


adding custom sounds/music


although Matthew and I will go through them over the summer to see if they are viable. Any other ideas for short tutorials on specific topics would be welcome.


A few other things we've come across which we liked,  as they will let the kids see some relevance in an "oldish" game.

Not many of the kids have any real knowledge of D+D and don't see it as relevant ( the idea of turns rather than spamming a key took a bit of explaining even to the Games Design class !) so this was interesting -

Just last week after I had finished watching THE battle in GOT I came across this from SnowWolf  Haven't had a chance to play it yet but the fact that it exists would be good to point out. 


In fact, the above module linking to something connected to the kids' own experiences was a thread that ran through last week in my mind. Towards the end of the week Matthew invited me to come along with a party of kids he was taking to a Creative Minds day locally where various creative disciplines had been brought together for a one day conference and workshops to demonstrate how creatives can work together. We were particularly interested in the workshop offered by one of our local universities Games Design department.  They had on offer three or four games their students are working on and we could wander round trying them out. The games were interesting - one was a VR project trying to recreate a Viking settlement complete with headset etc. , another a WW1 trench based adventure designed to help pupils learn as they awaited a push from the enemy and another environmental scenario where you had to try to save the world from itself.  All interesting but more so was the chat we had with the tutor.  I've gone on too long so I'll give some snippets of what he said :

- his department work on a "pod" system bringing together the different disciplines in years one two and three but don't bring the coders in till their final year. I laughed out loud and asked if the rest weren't ready to handle coders till then and he said there was a bit of that but that coders also got frustrated by the constant changes in demands from the rest of the team not realising the amount of work it would cost. Hadn't thought about that and found it interesting. 

- they were encouraging students to develop games rooted in social, environmental and historical topics as too many were coming up from a culture of mindless  "shootemups". 

-  he knew nothing about NWN !  I didn't pursue it as we didn't have time  . . and wanted to keep our powder dry (to stay in context) although he did offer students to come out and help with any project we wanted.  

- He also said they took "orders" from commercial outlets to create games to order which I found interesting. 


The above got us thinking about whether we should set a brief for the Games Design class to either choose an episode from Scottish history from around the time of NWN ( trust me, plenty to choose from !) or maybe set a brief as wide as just the environment.  It also started Matthew and I thinking about our own town's history in medieval times - Matthew knows a good bit about it - and it is pretty rich with tales of attempted assasination of kings etc. What a module that would make !  Links with other departments etc. Or do we just let them play with their own story? Being an ex-English teacher that appeals to me. 


Anyway, enough for now. We are due to finalise plans for next session in the week after next and I'll have an update then.



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